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Without a container terminal, the Port of Świnoujście will be regressing

Jerzy Wójtowicz, President of C. Hartwig: Without a container terminal, the Port of Świnoujście will be regressing

-Is deep-water container terminal in Świnoujście a good idea?

- We have been expressing this need for at least a decade. As part of my professional and social responsibilities, I have carefully surveyed the directions of development of maritime transport, and quickly came to the conclusion that a port without a deep-water container terminal is doomed to marginalize and will be able to develop at most, some cargo niches.
For years I have been arguing with dissenters of the construction of the terminal in Świnoujście, and I’ve always emphasized what Prof. Horst Linde from Berlin recently reiterated – that there is no such terminal between Hamburg and Gdansk yet, and that the terminal in Świnoujście, due to its location, will have a number of indisputable advantages.

- Why should Shipping Lines give up their routes and use the new terminal?

- This is indeed a very important issue, because, to put it simply, it are the Shipping Lines who decide on the location of their base terminals. Only after that, Shippers can take appropriate actions. I am convinced that the Shipping Lines before making a decision will do detailed calculations, from which it will be clear that calling Świnoujście will be simply profitable. An important element of such calculation will be the benefits of Świnoujście location.

- The Management Board of Szczecin and Świnoujście Seaports Authority is waiting for offers from interested parties, who will prepare the project, build a terminal and provide the operator. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2024. Is it an ambitious plan?

- Very ambitious. Infrastructure investment in maritime transport is usually a long-term investment, and if this project can be completed by the end of 2024, it will be a huge success. These specific dates are important because they are mobilizing, but also important for project coordination.

Let us remember, however, that we are talking about a completely new, powerful, extremely technologically advanced transport system, with berths for mega container ships, feeder ships, barges, road connections and a terminal railway station. Achieving the proposed handling capacity means handling of an average of 5,000 TEU per day. The station will therefore have to efficiently handle several dozen container trains a day.

- The strengths of the project?

- Undoubtedly, the location, at the entrance of the Oder River and at the beginning, but also at the intersection of various inland waterways, with the prospect of the Oder-Danube connection, access to central Europe by inland waterway shipping.

I would also like to draw attention to the marine effects of global warming and the opening of the north-east passage. Even the drilling machine for the tunnel under the Świna used this route. Environmentalists, of course, have doubts, and they protest, but the progress of green transport is so significant, that at some point these objections will disappear.

The north-east passage is shorter by one third than the traditional route around Asia and through Suez Canal. If this happens, the terminal in Świnoujście will become even more important. For the ships that will sail along cost of Norway, the first deep-water terminal on the way would be Świnoujście. Then we would be able to expand our hinterland towards the Adriatic. And we have to bear in mind that presently the ports located in the Adriatic are trying to expand in our direction, and from that side they are already reaching Polish borders.

- Threats?

- You need to find an operator who will be convinced that this idea is workable. He must realize that if the terminal starts operations in 2025, he will not immediately earn money, because no one will voluntarily give us their containers.

I also have concerns about our western neighbors. Usually, they had simply protectionist approach to their transport infrastructure. Years ago, we handled deliveries of ore from the Baltic Sea to  Eisenhüttenstadt. It’s difficult to imagine a better supply route, by ships to Szczecin and further by barges on Oder River to  Eisenhüttenstadt. It worked for many years. Our neighbors, however, decided that the ore for the German steel works shall be reloaded in German port and began to handle it in Rostock, then delivered by wagons with a huge discount on tariff rates. I am afraid of this kind of protectionist action, but I also hope for genuine European integration, and victory of healthy economic rules.

At the moment, at least officially, the terminal concept is accompanied by a friendly atmosphere of both central and local authorities. Let's hope that this doesn't change. The pandemic and the need to combat its effects are also a threat. But for this purpose we will receive significant funds, also from European Union. Let us hope that cost of fighting the pandemic will not reduce the resources for modernization of railway lines and the restoration of navigability of the Oder River.

- Volume potential?

- In order to estimate the number of containers for Świnoujście, research of specialized institutions is needed. Undoubtedly, the hinterland of this terminal comprises entire area of the Oder River basin, the south part of the country and further central Europe, all industrial and commercial facilities near the Oder River, eastern Germany with convenient inland connections. This potential is existing undoubtedly.
Globally, container turnover is growing steadily, year to year. These containers are real, but as I already said, they will not appear here by themselves. The proper conditions have to be created to attract them.

- Benefits?

A powerful development impulse and a chance for the Szczecin -Świnoujście port complex to join the leading group of world ports directly involved in handling of the most important and technologically advanced method of moving goods in global trade.

This is a chance to return the ports of Szczecin and  Świnoujście to the rank they have had in the 1970s, when we were the largest port in the Baltic Sea for perhaps one year. Thanks to the favorable location, and advantageous formal and legal solutions, we were north-south transit transshipment center. Millions of tons of cargo were handled through our quays in transit to Czechoslovakia, GDR, Hungary, Austria, Italy and even Romania and Bulgaria. Of course, times have changed, transport technologies have changed also. Presently, we do not aspire to be the port No. 1 in the Baltic Sea, but the deep-water container terminal will allow us to gain the meaning, to which we are predisposed by geographical location.

Container terminal is using wide range of most modern digital technologies, and it brings also a new way of cooperation of entire administrative  and service apparatus.

The terminal creates a demand for a wide number of types of services, and therefore it is surrounded by companies providing services to both cargo and means of transport.

I would also like to draw attention to so-called soft issues. The terminal needs to gain the opinion of the friendly facility not only for cargo, but also for various companies involved in its activities. At our potential competitors, this is not always the rule. And these are matters to which the Shippers attach great importance.

- The resort will gain also?

- Certainly will not lose. Let us not look far away. In the  past I worked in Belgium. Knokke-Heist is most famous and luxurious resort in this country, located on the North Sea coast. It is adjacent to the large Port of Zeebrugge, which can be viewed practically from the beach.  Great place. The port and resort live in  symbiosis.